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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

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Stony Brook women’s basketball seeks season sweep of Drexel

The Stony Brook women’s basketball team’s top players celebrate a bucket against Hofstra on Friday, Feb. 16. The Seawolves will take on Drexel tomorrow in Philadelphia. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

After nearly two weeks of rest, the Stony Brook women’s basketball team will try to maintain its stranglehold on the top spot of the Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) this week.

The Seawolves (21-3, 12-2 CAA) will travel to Philadelphia to take on the Drexel Dragons (12-13, 7-7 CAA) on Friday. Opening tip-off is set for 6 p.m. The two teams last met on Jan. 28, and Stony Brook stomped Drexel 62-41 at Island Federal Arena.

The Seawolves have not played since their 61-32 victory over Elon on Feb. 18. They were supposed to play Northeastern this past Sunday, but the game was forfeited due to their opponent’s limited roster availability. This granted Stony Brook an automatic conference win to stay in sole possession of first place, one game ahead of North Carolina A&T (N.C. A&T).

The Seawolves come into this game averaging the second-most points per game (75.0) in the CAA. The team has few weaknesses offensively, owning the best field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage (.343) in the conference. They get a lot of open looks off their strong ball movement, as their 16.0 assists per game as a team lead the league.

Point guard Gigi Gonzalez facilitates this offense at an elite rate. Her 5.4 assists per game rank second in the CAA. Power forward Sherese Pittman makes plays as well, dishing out 2.1 assists per game, which is tied for second on the squad with point guard Janay Brantley.

The ball being in Gonzalez’s hands has led to great things for Stony Brook, as she is scoring a conference-best 16.2 points per game on a .417/.353/.810 shooting line. Center Khari Clark complements Gonzalez with 15.9 points per contest — the third most in the CAA. Clark’s .625 field goal percentage leads the conference.

Pittman completes the team’s big three with 12.1 points per game on 46.0% shooting from the field and 81.5% from the free-throw line.

Behind the Seawolves’ triumvirate of superstars comes a bevy of useful role players that have helped make them the CAA’s team to beat. Shooting guard Victoria Keenan is their three-point marksman, as she leads the league with a .415 three-point percentage on 6.1 attempts per game. Her 8.6 points per game are the fourth most on the team.

Fellow shooting guard Zaida Gonzalez is also a threat from deep, shooting 35.6% from three-point territory on 59 attempts this year and 46.1% over the past five games. Her 8.5 points per game rank fifth on the team.

Power forward Shamarla King is a key role player for Stony Brook’s offense. Her shooting skills make her lethal on the wing, as she has knocked down 34.0% of her three-pointers this year. She does a good job getting the offense to go inside and out, as her 6-foot frame makes her a mismatch for plenty of defenders down low. She is shooting 46.4% from the field this year and averaging 6.3 points per game. She can not be hacked, either, as she has made 75% of her free throws.

The Dragons have gotten by on their scoring defense. Their 54.7 points allowed per game is the second-best mark in the league. However, that number is not fully indicative of the defense they have played this year.

Drexel’s offense is its best defense. By design, the Dragons slow the pace of the game down on offense to limit their defense’s exposure. They are tied for seventh in the CAA in field goal attempts per game (57.8) and have committed the fewest turnovers per contest (12.6), allowing them to chew as much of the clock as possible. In turn, their opponents are not able to generate many scoring chances, as they only surrender 51.3 shots per game — far below the conference average of 58.4.

The slow pace of play has helped hide a defense that ranks fourth worst in the CAA in field goal percentage against (.405) and fifth worst in three-point percentage allowed (.310).

Drexel power forward Chloe Hodges leads her team with 1.4 steals per game, followed by small forward Brooke Mullin with 1.2. Point guard Grace O’Neill averages exactly one steal per game. Mullin leads the team with 19 blocks and 0.8 per game. No other Dragon has more than nine rejections.

Though Drexel’s offense is its best defense, it has not been very good. The Dragons’ 56.4 points per game are the fifth-fewest in the CAA. They are the eighth-most efficient team from the field in the conference, shooting just 39.2% overall. Their 27.9% three-point shooting rate is the fourth-worst figure.

Mullin leads their offense with 10.9 points and 3.8 assists per game on a .330/.320/.704 triple slash. She is aggressive, as she leads the team with 122 three-point attempts.

Baker is the second-leading scorer with 9.6 points per game on 43.7% shooting. Hodge trails the two of them at 9.4 points per contest and has shot 49.0% from the field to lead the team and 80% from the charity stripe.

Hodge has also made plays, as her 3.0 assists per game are the second most on Drexel’s roster, ahead of O’Neill’s 2.9. Point guard Momo LaClair is also an accurate passer and helps run the Dragons’ second unit. LaClair’s 1.8 assists per game are the fourth most on the squad and her 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio leads it by a mile.

Small forward Laine McGurk is the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 7.1 points per game on a .376/.288/.750 triple slash. Shooting guard Erin Sweeney has returned to the bench unit after missing a month due to injury, as she appeared in the team’s most recent game against the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Sweeney has shot .415/.333/.750 this year and dished out 15 assists while committing only five turnovers.

Both teams have good size, but the Seawolves are better at using their size advantage on the boards. Stony Brook averages a CAA-best 42.6 rebounds per game, while Drexel is the third-worst rebounding team in the conference with 33.6 per contest.

Both standing at 6-foot-2, Clark and Pittman make up one of the best rebounding frontcourts in the conference. Clark’s 7.3 rebounds per game rank seventh in the CAA, while Pittman’s 6.7 land her at 10th. King pulls down 6.0 boards per contest, which falls just below the league’s top 10.

Gigi Gonzalez also helps the cause with her 3.9 rebounds per game, followed by small forward Kelis Corley’s 3.7.

For the Dragons, the 6-foot Hodges’ 5.5 rebounds per game leads the team. O’Neill trails Hodges with 5.4 boards per game, followed by center Jasmine Valentine with 4.5 and shooting guard Amaris Baker with 4.0. The 5-foot-11 Mullin also contributes with her 3.5 rebounds per game. LaClair is a good rebounder off the bench, as her 5-foot-10 frame allows her to average 2.9 boards a night in 20.8 minutes.

Center Hetta Saatman has struggled on both ends of the court without making much of an impact on the glass this year. Though she stands at 6-foot-2, she averages just 1.9 rebounds per game while shooting just 34.8% from the floor. She has started every game this year.

The Seawolves’ rebounding has been a big key in their defensive success, but they do more than just clean the glass on that end of the floor. Opponents score the fourth-fewest points per game in the CAA against Stony Brook (56.6).

The Seawolves’ shot defense is one of the three best ones in the country. Their .341 opponent’s field goal percentage ranks second in the CAA behind N.C. A&T and third in the nation. Opponents have made just 24.5% of their three-pointers against Stony Brook — the best figure in the conference and the third-best number in Division I of the NCAA.

Clark and Pittman protect the rim well and have helped the Seawolves land at fourth in the CAA with 3.5 team blocks per game. Clark’s 1.3 rejections per contest rank fifth in the conference, while Pittman’s 1.0 land her at 11th. However, Pittman has blocked 22 shots, which are the 10th most in the conference.

Clark and Gigi Gonzalez co-lead the team with 1.4 steals per game. Keenan averages 0.9 steals per contest, followed by Brantley and Pittman’s 0.8. King and Corley each contribute another 0.7 takeaways per game.

If Stony Brook can take care of business against Drexel, it will have a chance to clinch the CAA’s top seed on Sunday.

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